Page:Historical Lectures and Addresses.djvu/277

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


cathedral to give local colour to his peroration. He denounced the wrongs of the people, and shook his fist at the great church as the symbol of oppression, the home of purse-proud prelates who adorned themselves and their belongings at the expense of the poor. But in this case also no cheer followed; again a rhetorical sally which owed its point to any feeling for the past was unheeded. The working men cared neither for the good nor the evil of the past; their minds were set upon the present, and that was enough for them. I think this indifference would not be shown nowadays. One view or the other would raise a hearty cheer. There is nowadays a conception that things have grown, and that the way to mend them is to get them to gfrow in the right direction. This attitude of mind is the abiding contribution which a knowledge of history will make to social progress. Perhaps every branch of knowledge is more valuable for the temper which it creates, which can be shared by every one, than by its direct contributions, which can be judged by only a few. Again, I say, let us welcome the results of knowledge in any and every form.

It is not, however, my intention to-night to criticise the various ways in which history has been written. It is enough to say that it is not absolutely necessary to be dull in order to prove that you are wise, or to repress all human emotion in order to show that you are strictly impartial. On the other hand, the perpetual appeal to sentiment grows tedious, and the steadfast desire to construct a consistent character by disregarding uncomfortable facts, or explaining them